Ovary

Each ovary is the ovum-producing female reproductive organ that is oval in shape and lies against the lateral wall of the pelvis in a depression called ovarian fossa. Ovary is attached to the back of the broad ligament of the uterus by the mesovarium.

Ligaments:

  • Suspensory ligament of ovary: It is the part of the broad ligament that extends between the attachment of the mesovarium and the lateral wall of the pelvis. The blood supply, lymph drainage and nerve supply pass over to the ovary through the suspensory ligament.
  • Round ligament of ovary: It represents the remains of the upper part of the gubernaculum and connects the lateral margin of the uterus to the ovary.

Variable position of ovary:

The most usual position of the ovary is in the ovarian fossa where it is bounded by external iliac vessels above and internal iliac vessels behind. However, ovary is extremely variable in its position. Often it is found hanging down in the rectouterine pouch (Douglas’ pouch). During pregnancy, the enlargement of the uterus pulls the ovary up into the abdominal cavity. After childbirth, when the broad ligament becomes lax, the ovary takes up a variable position in the pelvis.

Structure:

Each ovary is surrounded by a thin fibrous capsule called the tunica albuginea. It is a highly condensed layer composed of short connective tissue fibers. The tunica albuginea is covered externally by a modified area of peritoneum called the germinal epithelium. The term is a misnomer because this layer does not give rise to ova. Oogonia are instead developed before birth from primordial germ cells.

Before puberty, the ovaries are smooth in form. However, after puberty, as successive corpora lutea degenerate, the ovaries become rough and scarred. After menopause, the ovaries become shrunken and its surface is pitted with scars.

Blood supply:

  • The arterial supply is provided by the ovarian artery, which arises from the abdominal aorta at the level of the first lumbar vertebra.
  • The venous drainage is by way of ovarian vein which drains into the inferior vena cava on the right side and into the left renal vein on the left side.

Lymph drainage:

The lymphatics of the ovary follow the ovarian artery and drain into the paraaortic lymph nodes at the level of the first lumbar vertebra.

Nerve supply:

The nerve fibers that supply the ovaries are derived from the aortic plexus. These fibers accompany the ovarian artery to reach the organ.

Function:

Ovaries are the organs responsible for production of germ cells, the ova, in females. In addition, they also produce the female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, in the sexually mature female.